How to Help Children Who Write Letters Backwards

Reinforce good handwriting skills and provide frequent opportunities to practice.
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Learning how to write is a major part of a child's academic development during the preschool and Kindergarten years. If your child is currently in the beginning stages of writing, don't expect the first printing attempts to be perfectly aligned and formed on paper. Writing crookedly or outside the lines is typical. Many children also write letters backward, particularly the "s", "d" and "b." Although this is typical for beginning writers, some parents begin to wonder if they need to consult a dyslexia expert. Writing letters backward is only one of several dyslexic indicators. If your child is still struggling with this handwriting error in 2nd grade, you may need to seek additional help. In the meantime, reinforce good handwriting skills and provide frequent opportunities to practice. Most importantly, don't stress out over a few writing mistakes that will probably be corrected by the time your child is 7 or 8. And, look on the bright side — you might be looking at the writing of a future doctor.

Model correct handwriting. This sounds easy, but many adults lapse into poor handwriting habits when they are no longer held accountable for penmanship. Get a primary writing tablet and show your child how to write each letter, but concentrate on the ones that are problematic for him. Write slowly, emphasizing formation. Get your child to trace over the letters you've written.

Practice writing in fun ways. Copying your letters repeatedly will become boring and monotonous, making your child less receptive to learning how to write correctly. Help him write a letter to a relative or friend. Write a grocery list together or compose a silly poem. If your child can understand that writing has a purpose, he may be motivated to continue working.

Use different materials to practice letter formation. Hands-on activities are fun and help children retain what they learn. Use play-dough to make letters or glue macaroni on paper plates in the shapes of letters. If you really want to be creative and get messy at the same time, spread some whipped cream on a table and write letters with your finger. Write the letter first, then have your child copy what you have written. You can do the same with sand.

Karen Hollowell has been teaching since 1994. She has taught English/literature and social studies in grades 7-12 and taught kindergarten for nine years. She currently teaches fourth grade reading/language and social studies. Hollowell earned her Bachelor of Arts in English from the University of Mississippi and her Master of Arts in elementary education from Alcorn State University.